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We need more rules on the Internet.
I’m not talking about regulation or liability or online civility or anything big and big like that.
I’m talking about the least important parts of the Internet possible. Specifically, things like when to send a Slack or text and when to send an email.
For me, the rule is obvious: send a Slack for an urgent question or for a chat. Email for anything I can answer you later, especially if it requires some thought or research. If you send me a Slack asking me to come up with a new idea or asking my reaction to a document, I’ll see the notification, tell me I’ll think about it for a minute before I get back to it, then quickly forget. Once this notification is cleared, so is my mind.
And yes, I know there are ways to handle this: I can send reminders, I can check the DM tab. I could write things with a fountain pen in a lovely notebook. But like many people, I use my email inbox as a to-do list. Once I have processed the email, I archive it; until then, it lives in my inbox, constantly reminding me that I owe someone an answer.
It’s part of a bigger challenge, of course, of figuring out how to contact someone, through which portal. There are methods of communication that seemingly force the recipient to hang on, such as an after-hours text message, and there are ways to say, “I know I’m asking you to do something, but it can. to wait a little “. like an email. Like Slack versus email, deciding which portal to use – whether it’s texting or DMing on Twitter or writing a letter or a call or, dammit, sending a telegram – forces us to think, “Is that what? am I sending this in the way that is most convenient for me, or in the way that will work best for them? (My former Slate colleague Tim Noah wrote in 2016 that you shouldn’t call someone without at least one warning if you’ve seen them naked.)
By thinking about the overwhelming number of ways we can contact each other, “immediate or longer term” is clearly the best way to determine what makes a Slack worthy of an email. But I am constantly amazed that others do not recognize the superiority of this approach. And it made me wonder: what rules do other people have that I unconsciously and regularly break?
If you were the boss of internet behavior – and again, we’re talking lesser stakes, not fixing Facebook or solving the broadband internet crisis – what rules would you impose on the rest of us? ? The more daily it is, the better. Tweet them at @FutureTenseNow (and, if you haven’t already, follow us!), and I’ll post the best ones soon.
Here are stories from Future Tense’s recent past.
The recommended future
This is the time of year when we all want to be a little scared. So I was captivated by Catherine House, a gothic literary thriller set in the 90s. At Catherine House, an exclusive college, students are expected to leave their previous lives completely behind – there are no family visits and everyone wears uniforms. . There are also reports of strange scientific experiments carried out by and on students. But alumni are also doing great things. Our main character, Ines, can’t wait to leave her own life behind, so school quirks seem good, until her roommate is in trouble.
And then: to be determined
In this week’s episode of Slate’s tech podcast, host Lizzie O’Leary tells Washington Post’s Drew Harwell how a new generation of hacktivists stole and posted data from Twitch, web hosting service Epik, and more. Last week, Lizzie and Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal spoke about the Facebook whistleblower and whether this latest round of scandals involving the original social network will create lasting change.
Events to come
On Wednesday, October 27, at 1 p.m. EST, join the Future Tense and New America’s Fellows program as Bartow J. Elmore discusses her new book, Seed Money: Monsanto’s past and our food future with Pulitzer Prize winner Marcia Chatelain. RSVP here.
Future Tense is a partnership between Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.